The old English proverb says, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” Very true. But in photography, the eyes are the windows to the lighting. Let me explain.
If you look at the eyes in a photograph, and especially the catch-lights, you can usually tell how the photograph was lit. In the picture above, of Melanie, I used a beauty dish, over the camera, angled down at about 45 degrees. I also used a white circular reflector, held just below the frame of the image, to bounce a little light up from below. Here’s what a beauty dish looks like – a parabolic reflector, with a center piece so that the light does not shine directly on the subject. The beauty dish provides a wonderfully soft light. The round catch lights are a tipoff to the beauty dish and even where it was placed.
If you look carefully at the closeup of Melanie’s eye, you will see the clear circle of light which is the reflection of the beauty dish. You can also see, more faintly, just below the pupil, the reflection of the round reflector I used to bounce a bit of light back upwards.
Let’s look at another photo. This is Catherine.
OK, this is the easiest lighting of all to figure out. See the circles of light, just going around her pupils? This can only be one kind of light – a ring light. In the picture at right, below, is a ring light set up in much the same way that I photographed Catherine. On the side of the light facing the subject is a circular florescent light-bulb, set in the round frame. In my picture, I set the light pretty close to Catherine – probably 18 inches away. The camera was placed right inside the opening of the ring light.
The ring-light provides an even more flattering and soft light than a beauty dish.
The circular catch-lights are not to everyone’s taste. I think they work well in this image. Because the light from the ring comes from every angle, there are almost no shadows on the face.
So, here’s a secret most photographers will not share with you. Sometimes, after the picture is taken, a photographer will change the catch-light in Photoshop to hide the lighting setup he or she used. This seems a little like cheating to me, so I don’t do it.
These are just two examples of ways to light a portrait. These techniques are especially appropriate for women. With men, you want a bit harsher and more contrasty light.
Let me know how you like them! I’m ready to take your portrait – with just the right lighting in the eyes to provide good windows to the soul.
“Individual, Indelible, Iconic Images”
Working both in the studio and on location, photographer Blake Robinson serves the Connecticut communities of Darien, New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport and Greenwich.